An Author's Assemblage: Brief Notes and Notices

The accumulation of posts to this web page serves merely as an author’s assemblage of brief notes and notices: the collection of informal bits of information, quotations, and observations gathered as one way to display a personal reflection of perceptions on poetry, publication, and related selections of material drawn from my perspectives as a poet or professor of literature and creative writing.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Donald Hall on "The Poetry Reading"

“The poet reads, or croons, or sings; flaps arms, dances, weeps, tells jokes; solemn or hilarious, frightened or confident or both; making the wholly private act of writing the poem into the wholly public act of reading or performing the poem, with the energy created by this conflict, this tension of opposites.

“Or sometimes—I forgot to say—the poet is boring, fatuous, stupid, obscene, drunk, paranoiac, incompetent, or inaudible.

“But when the poet reads well, the gain for poetry is considerable. For the poet, there is the sense that people are really there. The audience responds more tangibly than a letter or a book review. Yeats writes somewhere about feeling discouraged, but finding when he read in a village a young man who carried a battered and loved copy of Yeats’s poems with him.

“More important, the act of reading is the poet’s act of truly publishing his poem—as the syllables waver on the air from poet to listener, and the faces change as the syllables reach them: as the faces laugh and weep, change color, or look away; as eyes flash up, or eyes drop.

“And when we hear a poet read, whom we love, how touched and moved we are, to hear the voice itself pronounce the words we already know.” —From “The Poetry Reading” in Donald Hall’s Goatfoot Milktongue Twinbird: Interviews, Essays, and Notes on Poetry 1970-1976 (University of Michigan Press, 1978)

[View Donald Hall reading his poetry at “One Poet’s Notes”]

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